And for more than two decades, a Miller has been on the floor.
Tonight, win or lose, that era will come to a close. Katy Miller, the youngest of Miller’s four daughters, plays her final home game in a Thunder uniform.
In the days leading up to tonight’s sub-regional game against Gaston, the elder Miller said he has caught himself drifting down a stair-stepped memory lane filled with memories of his children, who came into the program one right after the other.
“I think back all the way back to Cindy, my oldest, first started playing,” Tommy said. “Then Brooke, Emily, now Katy. That’s been about 23 years worth of it.”
Katy has, too, although with a slightly more apprehensive approach.
“I almost don’t want to think about it,” she said.
While each daughter made their mark on the program, it has been only Katy that has played all her time in the AHSAA for JCA, which made the move from the private school conferences some time back.
But before that, she was around the program, just in a different role.
Starting off as a manager when she was just “knee high,” Tommy said, Katy has been around the sport early on leaning toward her natural role as a guard.
“I’d make her dribble up and down the court while the girls were shooting free throws,” Tommy said. “Dribble up and down, maybe up with the right hand and back down with her left.”
Sometimes during the halftime of home games, they’d cut her loose for a little dribble work.
“That was my favorite part,” Katy said.
It’s no surprise when one watches her play, she’s a natural with the ball in her hand. In 28 games this season, Miller routinely finishes in double figures, averaging 22.5 points per game.
While Tommy may have saw flashes of stardom in those time occupying drills, he said he knew he was going to have something special when his youngest played her first year on the varsity.
Jacksonville Christian had won its opening round game in the Calhoun County Tournament, and drew a strong top-seeded Anniston team in the second round.
Tommy got in a bind and had to look down the bench to his youngest to get on the court.
“Anniston was super quick, a lot bigger,” Tommy said “I was expecting her to be totally tore up, and I saw right then, the situations were not going to bother her.
“She played just like she did at practice every day, the surroundings had no effect on her, and that’s one thing that’s helped Katy tremendously. It doesn’t matter if we’re in a playing in a coliseum in front of 1,500 or 2000 or whether at Whitesburg in Huntsville in front of 150, it doesn’t matter. She’s just gonna play.”
And play she has.
She’s been the Thunder’s go-to player for some time, leaving a trail of fond memories for the family and the Jacksonville Christian faithful. Many of came with her filling up the stat sheet.
And one in particular, where she sent the crowd into a frenzy.
In 2008, it was Miller’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave JCA a 63-61 win that sent the Thunder to the Northeast Regional, a place they’re hoping to punch their ticket for again tonight.
But just because scoring may be what people notice most, it’s not what she said she likes best — she’s fond of dishing the ball off, which helps to account for her multiple double-doubles and even a handful of triple doubles this season.
Miller is entertaining some offers from colleges, and has turned down others.
She wouldn’t be the first Miller daughter to accomplish that feat, which begs the question of the one that knows them best: Who has been the best?
“You’re going to get me in trouble,” Tommy told a reporter.
And Katy wasn’t biting either: “I don’t know if I’m allowed to answer that.”
What both will attest to with the quickness of a crossover is the entire journey has been a family affair.
From a father on the sideline, to a mother keeping stats, to four daughters on the floor — albeit not a the same time — Tommy called the past two decades, “a special time.”
“Every one of those girls have been there and supported one another when their time came, and they went through,” Tommy said. “Then me and Frankie, my wife, have been able to be right there and be part of it. That’s been real special.”